I have been thinking, which, in and of itself, is not always a great thing. There is much written about how the bunglers of our art are bring us all down. If only we could eliminate the slag and magic will be respected as an art.
Do the other art forms have this problem?
Did Van Gogh think, “Gee, if we could only get Pierre to draw nudes instead of stick figures, this ‘painting thing’ will really take off?”
I thought I couldn’t speak about other art forms. Music, song, painting, sculpture, dance, acting, writing, do they have their own seedy underworld of half-assed deluded fiends? Well, the simple answer is yes.
I do not travel in these other worlds, having no other discernible talent other than lying, but like many I enjoy the car crash that is the auditions for American Idol. Just picture a Svengali deck in the hands of these crazed lunatics and you will begin to see the average magic club meeting. Now, we can extrapolate this to the other art forms with little argument.
So, where has magic gone wrong?
1) The truly bad of the other arts have a much more difficult time making money at what they do. Bad singers go to karaoke. Bad painters fill their garages with unsold paintings. Bad actors serve food. Bad sculptures make ashtrays. Bad magicians still seem to find work. Maybe not repeat work, or regular work, but work. The public really has a difficult time separating the good from the bad. Usually because they have little reference, I find, working at magic masters, that the last magician anyone ever saw is the best magician they ever saw. How we became generic in the public’s eyes is a whole other essay. Even Criss Angel is more often known as “that mindfreak guy” not as Criss Angel.
2) The other arts do not have the same kind artificial support systems. There are fewer SAMs and IBMs in the other arts. There are teachers and classes. I belong to a writer’s group. That is a place where we analyze each others’ work. It is not a place for fake back slapping and equalizing. The magic bunglers can network with the magic screw-ups and crossbreed with the magic clueless. Magic clubs give the terminally idiotic a chance to be on an equal footing with professionals, as do the conventions. Don’t get me started on this internet thing.
3) The comodization of magic hurts the art. Magic is sold everywhere and anywhere. When someone sells magic at a price reflecting its worth, we think they are ripping us off. Magicians are notoriously cheap. Magic is sold at cut-rate lack-of-respect prices. We, as human beings, rarely respect what is not gained through work. Magic sets proclaim a whole show in one box, just like the pros, with no work. While the painting kit does not profess that you will be opening a gallery any time soon.
4) True professionals, true artists in any art forms worry about themselves. Being an artist is ultimately an egotistical pursuit. Do you think Prince gives a flying fuck about some hack guitar player working the local VFW in Mokena? Is Brad Pitt staying up nights tapping out a blog on how bad of an actor Keanu Reeves is? Fill in your own artist from you favorite art as an example. Artists and Professionals worry about themselves and doing the best job they can. While many professionals do give classes, they do it in actual music and acting schools. They do not give away their art to any jerk with $25 and a mom to drive them to the magic shop.
Respect what you do and work to improve yourself is all the advice you will ever need to make the magician a respected artist.